Missouri special session more subdued after attacks

Thursday, September 13, 2001

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- To say that business continued as normal Wednesday in the state Capitol would be inaccurate. But business did continue.

Although the previous day's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington raised safety concerns, the Missouri General Assembly kept its vow to proceed with the special legislative session that began last week.

The mood, however, was somber, particularly in the traditionally boisterous House of Representatives, where debate was subdued and the usual constant hum of background chatter was absent.

State Rep. Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, said he never had witnessed the chamber so quiet during debate, and thoughts of the victims were foremost on the minds of his colleagues.

"Like the general public, people here are shocked at the acts that were committed," Mayer said. "Americans tend to be such good-hearted, kind people. We are stunned that people would stoop to this kind of act."

In his opening prayer, Senate chaplain, the Rev. Carl Gauck, summed up feelings of many lawmakers.

"Constitutionally, we are here to deal with what is required of us," Gauck said. "But we are still in shock and feeling anger at the attack on our country, and have empathy for the victims and their families of this outrage."

During the Pledge of Allegiance that followed voices were louder and more forceful than normal.

Before starting on the Senate's official agenda, Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, took a moment to acknowledge the tragedy.

"Yesterday morning our nation was attacked in a dastardly, dreadful, horrific fashion by enemies whose identity may not be known for some time," Kinder said. "At times like these, we are not Democrats, we are not Republicans. We are Americans."

In a display of patriotism and unity, state Sen. Chuck Gross, R-St. Charles, passed out small American flags to colleagues.

Security at the Capitol, to which visitors usually have free, open access, remained heightened. Only two of the building's many doors were open. Capitol police, always present but usually not noticed, were visibly posted at those entryways.

Hallways empty

Often teeming with school groups and tourists, the building's hallways were virtually empty, save for lawmakers and workers going about their business.

Unlike the day before, employees were more focused on their duties than news coverage. In many offices televisions remained on in the background.

In addition to Capitol police, the Missouri National Guard and Highway Patrol were placed on alert by Gov. Bob Holden Tuesday. All remained ready to respond to an emergency.

The Guard has increased security levels at facilities around the state and activated a military police unit based in Fulton. That unit is lending a hand at the Ike Skelton Training Center, the Guard's headquarters.

Every Guard member in the state has been contacted by phone to let them know to be ready for duty if needed. Lt. Tamara Spicer, a Guard spokesperson, said that was just a precaution.

"We don't expect to activate anyone," Spicer said.

All off-duty state troopers remain on standby prepared to respond within 15 minutes of being called. The heightened levels of readiness will remain in place indefinitely.

mpowers@semissourian.com

(573) 635-4608

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